Attributing minds to vampires in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend

Nuttall, Louise (2015) Attributing minds to vampires in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Language and Literature, 24 (1). pp. 23-39. ISSN 0963-9470

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For Palmer (2004, 2010), and other proponents of a cognitive narratology, research into real-world minds in the cognitive sciences provides insights into readers’ experiences of fictional minds. In this article, I explore the application of such research to the minds constructed for the vampire characters in Richard Matheson’s (1954) science fiction/horror novel I Am Legend. I draw upon empirical research into ‘mind attribution’ in social psychology, and apply Cognitive Grammar (Langacker, 2008), and its notion of ‘construal’, as a framework for the application of such findings to narrative. In my analysis, I suggest that readers’ attribution of mental-states to the vampires in Matheson’s novel is strategically limited through a number of choices in their linguistic construal. Drawing on online reader responses to the novel, I argue that readers’ understanding of these other minds plays an important role in their empathetic experience and their ethical judgement of the novel’s main character and focaliser, Robert Neville. Finally, I suggest that the limited mind attribution for the vampires invited through their construal contributes to the presentation of a ‘mind style’ (Fowler, 1977) for this character.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Fictional minds, mind attribution, Cognitive Grammar, construal, empathy, ethics, intermentality, mind style, I Am Legend, Matheson.
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Nuttall, Louise
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2015 07:56
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 17:02

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